The Two Saints Way – 92 miles – 9 days – Chester to Lichfield. In the late Middle Ages a steady stream of pilgrims would have travelled along an old route between these two cathedral cities. Some of those pilgrims would have been Irish, as Chester was the main port for those in the northern half of the island, so the favoured route to Canterbury, or even to Rome or Jerusalem, would have included visiting the shrines of St Werburgh at Chester, St Wulfad in Stone and St Chad in Lichfield.
Now after an interval of almost 500 years, pilgrims are starting to walk these routes again along the Two Saints Way. This route has been set up to recover some of the aspects that were important in medieval pilgrimage but also to apply them in a contemporary fashion.
It is not without significance that the Staffordshire Hoard is dated from exactly the same period as the two saints – St Chad and St Werburgh. This pilgrimage route enables walkers to visit the Potteries Museum where the hoard is displayed and provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the Mercian and Anglo Saxon heritage of the region.
The Two Saints Way has also introduced a new idea in waymarking. The logo includes a cross which is the symbol of St Chad and a goose which is the symbol of St Werburgh. Sometimes walkers can get confused (for example in woodland) if it is the same symbol for both directions. With the Two Saints Way it is not a problem – you simply follow St Chad’s cross if you are journeying from Chester to Lichfield and St Werburgh’s goose if you want to fly from Lichfield to Chester!
Pilgrims in medieval times did some pretty strange things and people should be able to do those things today if they find them meaningful. During the inaugural pilgrimage, the organisers revived the ancient pilgrim custom of walking the last miles from Farewell into Lichfield along the appropriately named Cross in Hand Lane, holding small palm wood crosses in our hands. Then at Lichfield Cathedral their feet were washed in the pedilavium which was probably last used used by pilgrims in this way nearly 500 years ago.
The Two Saints Way does not give the visitor an idealised portrait of England. It certainly includes tourist attractions like Beeston Castle, delightful villages like Bunbury and wonderful countryside such as the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However there are parts that are off the tourist track including some urban areas which will provide opportunities for regeneration and environmental improvements. It is particularly relevant that half way along the route it passes through Stoke on Trent. This will be the first footpath of national significance to pass through the city.